Usyk heavyweight glory hailed as ‘Ukrainian victory’

Published May 19, 2024
Oleksandr Usyk defeats Tyson Fury to become the undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh on May 19. — Reuters
Oleksandr Usyk defeats Tyson Fury to become the undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh on May 19. — Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky led the tributes to Oleksandr Usyk, whose victory over British fighter Tyson Fury in Riyadh made him the first undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion in a quarter of a century.

The 37-year-old, who briefly served as a soldier in the Ukrainian army after the Russian invasion of February 2022, spoke of a “great moment […] for me, for my family, for my country” after his points victory over Fury in Riyadh the early hours of Sunday morning.

“The Ukrainians hit hard! And in the end, all our opponents will be defeated,” Zelensky said on Telegram soon after the fight was over.

Usyk’s success in becoming the first heavyweight ever to hold four belts simultaneously shows that “Ukrainian endurance and strength give birth to Ukrainian victory”, added the head of state of the war-torn country.

Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko — a former world heavyweight champion boxer — stressed that Usyk “showed the world that Ukrainians are capable of defeating a strong opponent in a difficult fight”.

“This victory is very important victory for Ukraine today,” said Klitschko, who held the WBO and WBC titles albeit not simultaneously.

His younger brother Wladimir Klitschko — another ex-heavyweight world champion — was ringside in Saudi Arabia but echoed his sibling’s words. “Can you imagine how much pressure this man had these past weeks and here in this ring? Losing was not an option,” he told Sky Sports.

“It doesn’t matter how big, how tall, how heavy, what his reach is and how mobile Tyson Fury was, Oleksandr Usyk showed he is the best fighter in modern history,” Wladimir added. “I’m very proud of Oleksandr Usyk and I’m very proud to be Ukrainian.”

‘Strong nation’

Born in the Crimean town of Simferopol, Usyk was accused by many Ukrainians back in 2014 of sitting on the fence over Russia’s annexation of the peninsular. He was also castigated for saying that Russians and Ukrainians were the same people.

Since Russia’s 2022 invasion, however, the tune changed and the armed forces showed their full support for Usyk following his victory.

“Ukraine is once again showing that it is a strong nation capable of fighting for its identity, its language, its culture and its traditions,” said Mikola Oleshchuk, Commander of the Ukrainian Air Force.

A fighting unit posted an enthusiastic message: “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to those who defend it and to those who glorify it!”

For television presenter and actor Sergiy Prytula, Usyk’s win was a boost for the entire nation. “He won today. And with him, Ukraine has won. And when Ukraine wins, he and all of us will win with her!” he posted.

Jamala, the Ukrainian winner of the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, posted, “Thanks to you! We are proud.”

By adding the WBC title of his opponent of the day to his WBA, WBO and IBF trophies, Oleksandr Usyk is the first boxer to become undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis beat Evander Holyfield in 1999.

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